Attorney General Bonta Co-Leads Bipartisan Coalition in Support of Congressional Hearings on Social Media and Mental Health Harms to Kids
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, as part of a bipartisan coalition of 52 attorneys general, expressed support for hearings conducted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security on “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms.” Explosive recent reports in the Wall Street Journal detail how Facebook has designed its algorithms to create greater youth engagement in order to maximize monetization. The reports also reveal how Facebook’s own internal studies show that its products inflict significant harm — in the form of increased mental distress, bullying, suicide, and other self-harm — on millions of kids, with a particularly negative impact on teen girls. In their letter to committee leaders, the coalition of attorneys general, led by Attorney General Bonta, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, and Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, highlight their hope that these hearings will uncover critical information about the business practices that social media companies are using to gain the attention of more young people on their platforms and argue that it is time for government to intervene.
“For too long, social media companies like Facebook have chased their bottom line and ignored mounting evidence about the harms their products are causing to the safety and well-being of young people,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Enough is enough. Congressional hearings like these are an important step in holding these companies accountable.”
Attorney General Bonta is committed to protecting the safety and well-being of our children from targeted efforts by social media companies. In May, Attorney General Bonta joined 43 attorneys general in urging Facebook to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the bipartisan coalition cited research showing that social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children. For example, an annual survey tracking the activity of 5.4 million children showed Instagram was frequently flagged for suicidal thoughts, depression, and body image concerns. The letter also cited reports of cyberbullying and child predators using Instagram's platform to target children, and notes that Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms. On September 27, 2021, Facebook announced that it would pause development of the new platform, following heavy criticism and shocking new reports from Wall Street Journal and other publications.
Attorneys General Bonta, Moody, Healey, Peterson, Slatery, and Donovan are joined by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Wisconsin in sending the letter.
A copy of the letter can be found here.